September 6, 2020

US/Worldwide Weekend Box Office Report – 9.6.2020


OPENINGS:  The hugely-anticipated US opening box office numbers for TENET (Warners) turned out to be frustratingly opaque to interpret, and to the extent they were comprehensible, simply not very good.  (Let’s assume it was coincidental and not meta that some are saying the same about the film itself.)  Warners issued a grand total of one number–$20.2M–which includes at least 7 days of box office, because the film had “early access” screenings every afternoon/evening since last Monday, with an official opening on Thursday.  That number appears to include an estimated Labor Day Monday as well.  There was no day-by-day breakdown of the gross.

Because of all this, we won’t have any meaningful way to judge Tenet‘s US box office performance until next weekend, and we won’t truly know how Warners feels about it until we see whether the studio holds to its current plan of releasing Wonder Woman 1984 in theatres on October 2.  But objectively speaking, even given the extraordinary circumstances, and leaving aside comparisons to Christopher Nolan epics that were released in the pre-pandemic era, $20.2M for 7 days of screenings seems painfully underwhelming.  It seems safe to assume a burst of audience interest on last Monday’s opening night, and even if business dropped sharply Tuesday-Thursday, it’s hard to imagine that the 3-day weekend was much more than $10M.  That wouldn’t be much more than the $7M for last weekend’s New Mutants.  Put another way:  over the 1st 8 days of its release, New Mutants averaged approximately $1.2M per day.  Tenet‘s daily average over 8 days is $2.5M.  That’s higher of course, but Tenet was supposed to be far more than 2x New Mutants.  We’ll get into the way holdovers are performing below, but right now it seems as though Tenet may not see $75M in the US.  No matter what other considerations are taken into account, that isn’t good for a film with $300M+ in costs.

Things were much more encouraging overseas, but even there the news wasn’t all happy.  Tenet‘s opening in China was just $30M, putting it behind a local title in its 3rd weekend.  Tenet earned $28.1M in the rest of the world (45 markets), with an international total of $126M to date.  It seems to be on track for $200-250M outside the US, which would be a solid performance, but not enough to get the film close to breakeven without a corresponding amount of business in the US.

MULAN (Disney), of course, adopted a different strategy, “opening” on the Disney+ streaming service wherever that’s in operation.  It’s still playing in theatres where there’s no Disney+, and it opened in 9 territories at $6M.  Next weekend it lands in China.

HOLDOVERS:  Studios are grimly sticking to the “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” mantra for analyzing the pandemic box office, but there continues to be little if any evidence that films are having longer and more sustained runs.  On a Friday-Sunday basis, THE NEW MUTANTS (20th/TSG/Disney) fell 59% from last weekend to $2.9M, and that was with a 14% bump in theatre count.  The per-theatre drop was 64%.  (The studio is estimating a $3.5M 4-day weekend.)

THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD (Searchlight/Disney) had a better hold, down 25% to $360K on a Friday-Sunday basis ($470K with Monday), but that was also cushioned by an increased theatre count, making the per-theatre drop 33%.  More to the point, that still gave the film a terrible 3-day per-theatre average under $250.

UNHINGED (Solstice) has stopped reporting daily box office, and is reporting a 36% 3-day weekend drop to $1.7M ($2M with Monday).  It seems to be headed for $15M in the US.

NEXT WEEKEND:  The only scheduled wide release is the low-budget THE BROKEN HEARTS GALLERY (Sony), so Tenet will have no excuse for a sharp fall at the box office.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."